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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

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  • Apr 17, 2022

Durng the next three years there will be an unprecedented number of methanol ship launches for uses including container transportation with the development possible thanks to new methanol engine offerings to help shippers lower emissions compared with diesel and bunker fuels.

Maersk has announced vessels to be powered by methanol. The first will be in operation in 2024. Image courtesy of AP Moeller - Maersk

MAN, Rolls-Royce, and Wartsila are some of the companies behind new methanol engines to give shippers the option to switch from diesel and bunker fuels to methanol. Methanol is easier to produce and store than LNG. It´s already one of the top five traded chemical commodities. Stay informed with the stakeholders: Methanol, Ammonia and Hydrogen




Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Apr 17, 2022

Methanol fuel:  that's a disappointment.  Switching a large industry from oil to an alternative fuel is a large undertaking.  Given that a few different fuels (e.g. methanol, ammonia, & hydrogen) can likely be made from fossil methane gas for a price competitive with oil, methanol is the only one of the top three that emits CO2 when burned (assuming the others are made from electricity or fossil fuel with carbon capture).

For roughly the same effort they could use carbon-free ammonia instead.  That would be doubly beneficial, since ammonia is easier than methanol to make when clean-electricity, air, & water replace the fossil fuel feed-stock.  Note that methanol and ammonia both require special handling due to toxicity, however the difficulty of transportation and storage of hydrogen make it impractical for many applications, including long-distance shipping.

[Note that the claim of reduced emissions for methanol is likely not referring to CO2, but  referring to reduced soot, since soot is chains of unburned carbon, which comes from incomplete combustion of long-chain hydrocarbons like oil and coal.  Methane and methanol molecules, of course have single carbon atoms.]

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Apr 17, 2022

Presumably, the intent is to use "carbon neutral" methanol made from captured CO2 and green hydrogen. That's being done already -- albeit on a rather small scale -- in Iceland. One could argue that it would be better to sequester the captured CO2 and use the green hydrogen to make ammonia. That might be true, but if one wants to make ammonia, there's no reason to capture the CO2 in the first place.

I'm sure both approaches will be tried. They'll battle it out in the market. Since the world still hasn't put a robust price on carbon emissions, the winner will depend strongly on politics and subsidies.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Apr 18, 2022

Yes, in fact Wartsila has announced an engine program that is fuel agnostic, and includes methane, biogas, ammonia, and gaseous H2. (The program will demonstrate engines for each fuel, not one engine that does them all; some are targeted at marine applications, some apparently are for stationary power).  See here and here for 2021 press releases.

“There is a lot of interest from owners and operators in the potential for new clean-burning fuels, and ammonia is thought to be among the most promising of these candidates. Wärtsilä has already made significant progress in testing ammonia, and we are pleased to work together with them to bring this to reality,” says Youngkyu Ahn, Vice President, SHI."

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